Guest post by Bob Duchesne
It seems like only yesterday that I was an American Folk Festival rookie. Oh, there are so many things I’ve learned in the ensuing years. Once upon a time, I was an amateur. I merely arrived at the waterfront, eager but clueless. Now I prepare with the zeal of a pro.
I begin at least a week in advance. Every year, I have to locate my portable folding chairs. I only use them for the festival. Otherwise, they collect dust and squirrel dung in the garage. (I know, gross, but at least now I recognize the need to scrub the chairs early…and fix my eaves.)
Cash. I need lots of cash, and not just for the bucket brigade. With so much culturally and ethnically interesting cuisine available in the food court, I have but one goal every year: to eat a path of destruction across the festival. There are certain vendors that I know I will patronize. (I love Indian food, and how about that Cajun?) In the beautiful August sun, I thirst. I need to pace myself, so a few freshly squeezed lemonades are appropriate before I later banish myself to the beer tent.
The CD tent takes credit cards. But I know that I must get there early because the most popular acts sell out fast. I want to take home my favorite pieces of the festival every year, but I now know that the recordings of my favorite acts are unlikely to be in stock by Sunday. My all-time favorite was Barachois – a Prince Edward Island band that blended French-Acadian music and comical hijinks. I had to wait long after their performance to purchase their music from their web site, because they sold out so quickly at the festival. I have my musical preferences. I plan to catch those performances as early as possible so that I know what I will want to buy. I head for the CD tent while the act’s music is still in stock. I learned the hard way.
And then there is the logistics of meeting up with friends. The American Folk Festival is the Number One social interaction of the year in Bangor. (Basketball tournaments are Number Two. There’s no actual study. I just made that up.) I make plans to meet up with friends, but it takes a lot of coordination. We all have different folk festival strategies.
Some of my friends like to sample the festival, moving from stage to stage. Coordinating with them is a challenge, but rewarding. Other friends choose one stage and let the festival come to them. They arrive early, grab good seats, and stay. Sooner or later, every act will pass in front of them. If I time it right, I can get good seats, too, and enjoy their company. It takes planning.
My wife and I both volunteer at the festival, and it seems that we never do it at the same time. So we must coordinate our schedules with the precision of a Normandy invasion. We go over the acts the night before, list the stages we will be at and the times we will be there, and synchronize our watches. If this were a competition and there was a professional league for festival going, we’d be in the starting lineup.
Bob Duchesne writes a weekly birding column in the Bangor Daily News and hosts Bob Duchesne’s Wild Maine on Sports Radio 929 The Ticket.